Modern Vices - Modern Vices - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Modern Vices - Modern Vices

by Rich Morris Rating:3 Release Date:2014-10-20

Chicago's Modern Vices do not sound or look like they have a lot of vices, except perhaps arrogance and a wanking addiction. To be fair, some of this debut album isn’t too terrible. The likes of ‘Awake in the Night’, 'Nothing So Cold' and ‘Don’t Hold Me Down’ have some nice 80s indie drama going on, a spot of tempestuous, ‘Oooh, I’d really like a shag’ tunefulness.

However, other numbers, most heinously single ‘Cheap Style’ and the Modest Mouse-aping ‘You’re So Special’, are so repetitive and lazy they really beggar belief, as well as being almost completely tuneless and charmless. Both latter qualities mainly come courtesy of singer Alex Rebek, who throughout this album sounds like Joe Cocker doing a Morrissey impression while pissed at a karaoke night. He’s getting some praise for his ‘raw emotion’ which is, of course, what we always say about white men who can’t hold a tune since bloody Dylan.

At times, as on ‘As It Never Came’, he verges on sounding quite goth, like The Damned’s Dave Vanian, which I like. Also, one concession to modern production (which, coincidently, proves this is not genuinely ‘lo-fi’, is not actually recorded live in a pub toilet flooded with sweat and tears) is when they occasionally swaddle his voice is echo, which I also like. Plus ‘Smoke Rings’ ducks the trend of the rest of the album by being a well-produced, delicately played ballad which proves Rebek can hold a note when he wants too.

So it’s actually not all bad. But then that kind of makes me hate it even more, because it just feels so calculated. Apparently, Modern Vices have described their music as "dirty doo-wop" (and closer 'Baby' certainly sounds like The Flamingos' 'I Only Have Eyes for You' slathered in excrement), but really they're doing Is This It for 2014. There’s exactly the same Velvets/Television, sleazy-lite vibe, the same hoary old knock-kneed riffs, similar determinedly poor production values. It just sounds like they’ve been listening to The Smiths and The Radio Dept. a lot too.

I dunno. Maybe people will buy into this stuff again, as old and fake as it so obviously is. I don’t think Modern Vices are the band to sell it to them though. Cheap style just about sums it up. 

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